Polycom, Sabre Team On Videoconference Reservation System

Sabre Virtual Meetings lets people book videoconferencing rooms just as they do flights, hotel rooms and rental cars.

Robert Mullins

November 2, 2011

3 Min Read
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Slideshow: Cisco Umi Takes Telepresence To The Home(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Videoconferencing provider Polycom is teaming up with Sabre, which operates a global service for booking airline flights and other travel services, to let customers reserve rooms where parties can hold meetings via videoconferencing. The Sabre Virtual Meetings service also lets users compare the cost of traveling to a particular destination to meet people in person to the cost of meeting them via videoconferencing instead. For Polycom, it's a way of leveraging higher utilization of video conferencing resources that customers have already purchased.

Sabre has historically been the system that travel agents used to book flights, cars, and rooms for consumers. In the wake of the rise of Web sites like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity, consumers typically book travel arrangements on their own. But Sabre still serves a number of corporate travel agencies. With Sabre Virtual Meetings, bookers can use a computer interface similar to what they already use to reserve flights, hotel rooms, and cars to also reserve videoconferencing rooms, said Greg Webb, president of Sabre Travel Networks.

Sabre Virtual Meetings is a logical extension of Sabre's travel booking business in that it arranges face-to-face meetings--and now virtual ones, said Webb. In each case, Webb said, Sabre is facilitating collaboration.

[ Do you use videoconferencing? Here are 2 Reasons Videoconferencing Remains A Niche. ]

"We began to discuss what if we brought to bear the things that we do best in travel and begin to make those same capabilities available when it came to how you talk about other forms of collaboration," he said in a video news conference, where participants joined from such places as Dallas, London, Mexico City, and San Francisco.

The inventory of available rooms for videoconferencing includes public rooms such as those at hotels and business centers, where anyone can sign up for a room. But it also includes private rooms at companies that may have a Polycom-built room for their internal use, but which can elect to open it up to bookings by their partners, suppliers, or other parties.

Calls can also include participants using Polycom RealPresence recently-released technology that allows people to join Polycom calls using Apple iOS- and Google Android-powered tablets.

The Sabre Virtual Meetings service is scheduled to be available sometime in the first half of 2012, Polycom said.

While the service primarily connects Polycom-based video conference rooms, it can connect "Polycom to non-Polycom rooms," said Hayden, if those other room systems are based on the telepresence interoperability protocol (TIP), which was created by Cisco Systems for its TelePresence service, but which Cisco later released for other systems makers to adopt.

"That's a wonderful thing about Polycom's technology and it was one of the key reasons that Sabre was interested in working with us," Hayden said. "There really wasn't a limitation on 'Am I going to be able to talk to you if we have different technology platforms?' There isn't a limitation on our ability to go ahead and [offer] that as an alternative."

However, a Polycom spokeswomen at the San Francisco video conference site said IT staffers might need to make a few adjustments to make a Polycom and a Cisco system work on the same videoconference call. However, Polycom is a founding member of the Open Visual Communications Consortium, an industry group devoted to further improving interoperability between various network service providers.

Vendors and observers of the burgeoning video conferencing and collaboration market talk frequently about the need for interoperability and compare it to the cellular phone business, where subscribers to AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, or Sprint can all place calls to each other.

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